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How Do I Know if I'm Saved

There was a time in my life when I used to wrestle endlessly with this question. It was the source of no small amount of fear and anxiety, often leaving me physically shaking and in tears. It’s one of those “existential” questions every believer asks in his or her life, and never just once. I’m extremely thankful to God that He has brought me to a place of rest with this question. I hope it comes as a deep encouragement and relief to you that not only do I no longer shake with fear at asking this question, but I now find incredible hope and when I ask it. My hope is that you would do the same.

Most people come to wrestle with this question as they are introduced to the biblical truths that all of salvation is accomplished by God’s hands alone, and that it comes solely by faith in Jesus’s gifts of atonement and cleansing on the cross alone solely because He is gracious and chose to save us. However, I wrestled with this question long before being introduced to those truths myself. My struggle was not dissimilar to John Bunyan’s work, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. If you have trouble with the monotony and depression of much of that book, that was my daily life for quite a while.

I’m heavily invested in the answer to this question not only because it led to so much grief as I approached it unbiblically for so long, but much more so for the fruit it has produced now in my life. It is a question we are commanded by God in His word to ask. It is a good question, and it leads us to a good God.

An Inevitable Question

When you faithfully preach the good message of Jesus’s cross, certain words come out a lot: His people, when you believe, all who believe, and the like. It’s an irresponsible message when we tell people that are lost that they are already God’s children and just need to realize it. God is clear that until he saves us and we then believe, we are His enemies, and we deserve His wrath. When we preach the gospel, it is better to say things like, “God is calling you to believe,” “God wants you to repent and trust Him,” and “As you’re hearing this message, it’s not meant to drive you away from God in fear but to draw you near to Him in need.”

People are perceptive. They hear your message, even if they find it foolish or offensive. In talking about various gospel truths with my 7-year-old son, he was perceptive enough to ask me, “Do I believe?” It doesn’t matter your age. When you read scripture or have a faithful gospel message given to you, it will inevitably show God’s faithfulness at the root of everything and just above that: our trust. All gospel promises are attached to faith. Believers and unbelievers alike cannot help but ask the question, “How do I know if I believe?” And this question, at least biblically, is the same as asking, “How do I know if I’m saved?”

My goal here is to give you practical, ground-level helps as you engage this question, and those helps are going to be driven by scripture.

An Obedient Question

Not only are you not alone in asking this question, and not only are you clearly wired to ask it, you are actually commanded by scripture to ask it in Paul’s final words to the Corinthians. He desired them to be obedient when he next came to them so he would not have to be severe. So he commanded them to examine themselves.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor. 13:5)

Since God’s commands are never bad for us, my desire is to lead you away from equating this question with only fear and anxiety. In fact, immediately after giving and explaining the above warning, Paul says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice.” The command is not to examine and lament. The command is to examine and rejoice.

The Differences Between Saved and Unsaved People

When examining ourselves to see whether or not we are saved, I think the most sensible place to start is to ask, “What are the actual differences between saved and unsaved people?” If we know the differences, it will help us look at ourselves in light of those differences and see where we fall. As we examine ourselves, it leads us to do so more biblically, and it will bring an ever-increasing confidence and joy to our lives. I don’t want to be strictly comprehensive here with a giant list, but I want to be responsible and reflect the true biblical picture.

The Unsaved

Romans 1:21-24 – When we are unsaved, our thoughts are trapped uselessly on worldly things, our hearts are completely blinded to who God really is, and (at least internally) we boastfully consider ourselves to be wise. Also, we see God as dull, colorless, and undesirable, and we see many worldly things and vivid, beautiful, and much more pleasurable than God. In short, we exchange the glory of God for creation. Furthermore, we are trapped in this state and completely unable to escape. We are addicted to desiring everything except God, and we cannot desire God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – When we are unsaved and we hear the gospel, we inevitably see it as either offensive or foolish. Our reactions range from “How dare you say I need rescue?” to “Who could possibly believe in such a ridiculous message?” We are unable to hear it joyfully and consider it to be God’s power and wisdom. We are unable to truly feel our need for it and long for it.

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 – When we are unsaved, we do not have the Holy Spirit living inside us, and therefore, we are unable to desire Jesus’s desires and think His thoughts. Those things are not available to us.

1 John 3:4-10 – When we are unsaved, God’s seed does not live in us, and therefore in our tangible everyday actions, we cannot obey God (also see Romans 8:5-8). We are “lawless,” meaning that we only keep the law to avoid punishment, not because we enjoy and love the law. Please don’t misunderstand this. This doesn’t mean we do only evil all the time (“utter depravity”). It means do not obey out of love and trust toward God, and no area of our lives is beyond the control of sin.

The Saved

Romans 3:21-26 – The moment we are saved, God restores our ability to see Him for who He is. He shows Jesus off to us as a gift of righteousness we could not earn and cannot lose. Jesus appeases God’s wrath toward us by taking that wrath on Himself so that God is still just as He justifies sinful people.

Romans 5:6-11 ; Colossians 1:21-23 – We were enemies of God before we were saved, and we were foreign to Him, not belonging anywhere near Him. But when God saved us, He reconciled us to be at peace with Himself and to belong in His presence.

Ephesians 2:1-10 ; Romans 6:1-14 – We were dead before we were saved. But when God saved us, He made us alive with Jesus. Further, God ended sin’s control over us, and we are no longer “given over” to sin because Jesus was “given over” in our place to put sin to death in us (Romans 4:25). We are able to obey, and sin no longer has control over us.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – After being saved, when we hear the gospel, we feel a keen need for it, and we long for the blessings of the gospel message. We see it as God’s wisdom, and for us, the hearing the gospel is God’s power to save us out of sin’s control.

Galatians 3:1-6 – In fact, we don’t just hear the gospel once. We hear it over and over again, and by the power of hearing the gospel with faith, we have the Spirit, and we are continually perfected. The gospel rescues us frequently and not just once.

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 – When we are saved, the Holy Spirit is sent to live in us, and He reveals God to us, giving us Jesus’s mind. With Him, we are able to love what Jesus loves and think what Jesus thinks.

2 Peter 1:3-11 – Now that we are saved, we are able to participate in God’s nature because of His great and precious promises. We are given everything we need to live a godly live here and now. More than that, we are commanded to practice the righteousness we now have access to.

1 John 3:4-10 – Once saved, God’s seed lives in us, and we cannot continue on in sin as though nothing at all happened. The common way people describe this is to say that God “ruined them.” And what they mean by this is that God ruined their previous ability to delude themselves into blind satisfaction in sin. We have eyes that see now. When we sin, we know clearly that it’s wrong and damaging, and not just because of Earthly consequences. We can feel the resulting distance from God. Sin loses its savor, even in callousness. We are no longer able to blindly practice sin.

How to Examine Yourself

Just Listen to the Gospel

There are some practical things in the verses above that will guide us well in how to examine ourselves wisely. First and foremost, you need to firm up your realization that salvation is a gift! It depends on God’s righteousness, not ours; on God’s obedience, not ours; on God’s faithfulness, not ours; and on God’s steadfast love, not ours. We received salvation when we were dead in our sins, able to do nothing. Salvation is a gift freely given, impossible to repay. When we talk about examining ourselves to see if we are in the faith, we aren’t looking for actions that keep salvation. We aren’t looking for actions that would supposedly lose salvation (I’ll deal more with this later). We are looking for evidences of God’s freely given salvation. Scripture gives us many tangible evidences, so let’s get into them.

The most obvious tangible evidence of God’s saving grace is how our hearts react to the gospel. This is the easiest and quickest way to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. This is how I most often choose to examine myself when I feel discouraged. 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 makes it clear that the unsaved see the gospel as foolish and offensive. They are unable to see the gospel as something they need and as their only hope for salvation. My first advice to you in testing yourself is to simply hear the gospel! Yes, it is that simple. Read it, contemplate it, and talk about it with a friend. What happens to your heart when you hear it? Is it refreshing? Is it comforting? Do you see your need for it? Does it delight you? Do you thirst for it? Does it draw you near to God instead of pushing you further away? If so, then I think you should be encouraged about your salvation. Lost people don’t do that.

More than this, our reactions to all of scripture are telling, and I’ll get a bit more into this later. When we read warnings, and we feel fear, that should be encouraging. When we read commands, and we realize that God is for us, He’s powerful, and He’s good, those commands cease to be restraints. Instead we are able to see God’s commands as loving and wise for us, even when we do not fully understand. In fact, this is exactly how the gospel changes us from lawless rebels into lovers of God. This also encourages us about our salvation because lost people cannot do that.

From here, I think it’s best to bring you to a phrase I’ve found tried and true. You’ve probably heard it said, “You don’t have to obey. You get to obey.” This statement is true and helpful, but it’s incomplete and potentially dangerous. I’d like to finish it with something more helpful: “You don’t have to obey. You get to obey. But if you don’t want to obey, then you are in danger, and you need to repent and see God for who He is again.”

Even though you’re saved, please don’t think that it’s “safe” to dawdle in sin. It’s not safe. It’s dangerous. We have many stern and frightening warnings against living in unrepentant sin. Your sight of God grows dim, your confidence in salvation wanes, and you inflict real damage on God’s reputation on Earth, on your brothers and sisters in Christ, and on your unsaved neighbors. Just read through Hebrews for a reminder of how important it is to hear and obey the gospel right this moment and not wait.

Knowing that you’re saved is not where scripture leads us. It’s not where scripture lands. God’s word paints our confidence in salvation as something we not only test but as something that we build. It’s not some binary one or zero. It’s relational, and it grows. Paul and Peter do not tell us to seek out a checkmark regarding our eternal destiny. They lead us on a journey during which we play around with and make liberal use of the promises we’ve been given. Seeing those promises come alive in real life is what grows our confidence, and more than that, leads us into growing intimacy with God.

A Growing Confidence

I don’t recommend that you only hear the gospel and watch your heart’s reaction. I recommend that you practice righteousness. The rest of the paragraphs in this section are just an explanation of Peter’s advice for how to continually grow in your confidence of salvation in 2 Peter 1. Remember that you cannot practice something you do not have. If you do not have the Holy Spirit, then you cannot truly see or delight in the gospel, and you will fail the test in the previous section. If you do have the Holy Spirit, then you are able to practice what follows. If your heart reacts with need and longing to the gospel, then you are able to practice these things.

You are also commanded to practice them. It’s not optional. And how can you be confident in your salvation if you do not seek to practice God’s divine nature as you’re commanded to do? That’s why it’s so important to do these things. They bring confidence and joy in God’s salvation. If you fail to do them, you will become blind and less confident in your salvation. Only, don’t take that resulting blindness as opportunity to despair but as opportunity to run empty handed to God, leaning into His gospel, His free gift of salvation, begging Him for grace to change.

First, practice morality and purity, and see if you are able to do it joyfully because you trust and enjoy God. This practice of morality and purity has to be coupled with meditating on and enjoying God’s many free-gift promises in Jesus. With your eyes fixed on God, say yes to loving God and loving your neighbor, and say no to ungodliness. You are able to do this, so practice it and watch it live and breathe in real life. Be encouraged by this.

Next, practice knowledge. I don’t mean just knowing things, but I mean, “I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). Get a view of God, and pray with the Psalmist, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). Does your heart move with knowing God intimately?

Next, practice self-control (also listed by Paul in Galatians 5 as a fruit of the Spirit). Are you able to restrain your heart from sinful excess joyfully because of the God you’ve come to know? Is knowing God as your oasis in the desert able to disarm the wild pull of idolatry and addiction for you in the moment? Practice this! If you are saved, you are able to be self-controlled with a joyful heart as you fix your eyes on God.

Next, practice steadfastness in your self-control. Don’t just practice it one moment and not the next, but practice it one moment and the next. Live your life in the refuge of our God, praying with the Psalmist, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2). As you feel discouraged and weakened from practicing self-control, refresh yourself in God’s sanctuary. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Practicing steadfastness must be coupled with finding yourself in God’s sanctuary often to release the slowly tightening grip that sin can develop over time. Our steadfastness comes from God’s steadfastness, and we only access it when we walk step in step with Him. My experience is that steadfastness brings great confidence in the Lord. We “settle” into salvation through steadfastness, and we rest there. Practice this. It’s yours, and it’s freely given.

Next, practice godliness. This word means more than obedience. It reaches more into ideas of fearing God, being loyal to God, and being reverent toward Him. Peter says earlier that this godliness comes through knowing God. Having endured in self-control and righteousness, you will find a firm, unshakable loyalty to God forming, a powerful reverence toward Him that is not forced through punishment but comes gladly from the heart, having seen His proven character over and over. More and more, we become truly “His.” This is meant to be an encouragement to you that further grows your confidence in God’s powerful salvation of your soul. You used to revere people and sin, but more and more, you revere only God. Practice this.

Next, we find the penultimate command in Peter’s list: brotherly affection. Truly loving God as we were called to, we are truly able to “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Knowing God’s character and developing a firm reverence for Him, we come to see our family in Christ as God sees them, as His very own children. We love our brothers and sisters deeply, and we long for them to be blessed and cared for. Having joined in God’s nature, we live in Jesus’s humility and desire for the good of others. This is necessary for us to we build one another up in love into the full stature of Jesus Christ as Paul commands us to in his letter to the Ephesians. Practice brotherly affection by fighting contentions and by eagerly desiring the good of your brothers and sisters. Be encouraged at how this affection grows over time. This is yours for the taking. Practice it, watch it live and breathe, and enjoy it.

Finally, practice love in all things in all places. Peter said in his first letter, “Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins.” In this, we are truly like God. In this, we fully imitate Him. To be rid of self and to be full of an intense love for your family in Christ and for the world around you is to be best primed for our eternal calling, our eternal home. Practice the desire for the good of others and the putting down of loving self. This is the life we are saved to live. By practicing God’s own love, we image the trinity, who embodies love in community perfectly. This growing, intense love is an encouragement that God has indeed saved you. Practice it. Live in it.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8-22)

Peter describes practicing the gifts we have been given as though it literally escorts us into God’s eternal home. These disciplines are not sterile, cold, “you have to do this or else” disciplines; and when they are, it’s just a sign that our hearts are becoming calloused. These disciplines are life-giving, intimate, joyful disciplines that revive the soul and pry us loose from the enslaving, deadly tentacles of sinful infatuations.

The Difficulty with Callousness from Sin

Don’t forget that Peter did say, “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” The author of Hebrews did say, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” When we fail to engage the righteousness we have been given, we become blind. When we do not live the life we were saved to live, and we dawdle in sin, we become hardened. It always happens. The more we entertain sin as though it weren’t seeking to kill us, the worse this callousness gets.

When we have a hardened heart because of living in sin, we often hear the gospel and feel little to no movement at all in our hearts. This is certainly not an uncommon experience for those who have lived too long with unrepentant sin in their lives, forsaking the joyful disciplines of grace God leads us to engage daily. My encouragement to you when you find yourself in this situation is to look at the gospel again. And then look at it again and again and again! Consider the gospel with others in your community. Feed off of their less calloused hearts, and follow them into the God’s sanctuary to enjoy Him. Take advantage of the truth that it is easier to feel the Lord’s presence and the beauty of His gospel when in the company of other believers. Take advantage of the fact that enjoying Him comes more readily in the presence of other believers. 

I believe it is faithful to scripture and honest of reality to say that when you aren’t actively practicing the gifts you’ve been given and playing around with them in your life, then you are meant to doubt your salvation.

Your confidence is meant to wane. It’s not like you can be confident now, then ignore God for a year, and remain confident at the end of that year. Confidence is linked to relationship, and relationships do not work that way. The waning of your confidence in salvation and the subsequent fear that brings are together meant to wake you up and drive you to God in trust that He is faithful even when you are not.

God uses these things in His infinite power that keeps you. Please know that I’m not saying your salvation waxes and wanes. It is firm and secure for all time. However, your sight of it and your confidence in it do wax and wane.

We can even become so calloused that for all practical purposes, it’s not really possible to know whether we are extremely calloused or whether we’re unsaved. I feel like this topic is dealt with so pastorally and encouragingly in John Pipers When the Darkness Will Not Lift, that it’s best to simply ask you to read that book if you find yourself currently in this situation. The seed of salvation can exist even when we are currently in such darkness that we feel we are unable to see it. One thing I do know is that when you find yourself in this situation, the last thing you need to keep doing is examining yourself. Give yourself mere moments to examine yourself. The moment you have an answer, even if that answer is, “I still do not know,” get your eyes off of yourself and onto the God they were meant for.

Can I Lose My Salvation?

This is not a dumb question, and you are OK to ask it. God is good to us, and He is clear to us in His Word. We don’t need to hide from asking this, and we don’t need to defend God by ignoring it. He can defend Himself perfectly well, and that frees us to ask this and other questions in full frankness and openness.

This question wasn’t formed in a vacuum. There are verses that make us feel like we can indeed lose our salvation. The most common of these verses are the ones that give clear notions that only those who do endure to the end will actually be saved. We see this idea in verses like Matthew 10:22, John 15:6, 1 Corinthians 15:2, and Galatians 6:9. But it’s important to realize the language used here. We are warned of what will happen if we do not endure to the end. We are commanded to endure to the end. What we are not told is that we actually can fall away from salvation.

Next, we need to realize that God actually does say quite clearly that He will keep us to the end. Verses like John 6:39, John 10:28, Romans 8:28-35, Hebrews 6:17-18, Ephesians 1:11 make it extremely clear that God saves once and for all those He chooses. There are other passages that make it clear that God knows all things that will come to pass and establishes them from the beginning (Job 23, Isaiah 46). God chose us before the foundations of the world, God is able to save us, God is able to keep us, God has promised He will keep us, and God cannot be unfaithful to His own promises. It is a firm guarantee.

Now some people will look at these two realities in the Bible and say one of several things. They might say that the Bible is erroneous and unreliable. It “kind of” has God’s revelation to us, but not really. They might say that some people thought we could lose salvation while other thought we couldn’t, though this doesn’t stand up to the fact that Paul would inevitably be contradicting himself. But at Legacy, we do not consider a God who is divided and confused to be worth worshipping. We do not consider a God who cannot reveal Himself clearly and inerrantly to us to be worth worshipping. This is not to mention also the fact that God says clearly in His word that He makes wise the simple, reveals Himself powerfully to sinner, and is inerrant in His words to us. He would be contradicting Himself if He gave us wrong words in His Word.

So this inevitably means that His words do not, in fact, contradict, but that they work together for our good. Our task then becomes asking Him to guide us in understanding how these verses work together, and our past faithful brothers and sisters in Christ have not left us barren regarding this. How this works is that the firm promises of God stand as the umbrella under which everything else resides. God’s promises to choose, predestine, save, cleanse, atone, change, perfect, and bring full to the end everyone He saves are firm, clear, and unwavering.

So why have warnings that say, “Only those who ensure to the end will be saved?” Why have commands that say, “Be sure that you endure to the end?” Because God is using them for your good. This isn’t some childish game of logic. Those warnings are intended to bring fear, and that fear is intended to draw you near to God. They act as a wake up call to spur us out of dawdling in sin. The commands are intended to be weighty. They are intended to show us the importance of hearing the gospel today and reacting to it with faith and trust today. God’s warnings and commands do not contradict God’s promises. Rather, the join God’s promises in a united front to keep us in salvation. The promises are firm and secure, and God uses the warnings and commands to spur us back into His avenues of grace as we stray from them. God uses warnings and commands in His mysterious and wise keeping power.

Friend, rest assured that you cannot lose your salvation. When God saves you, you are safe! That safety and freedom lead you to see God clearly for who He is. That renewed sight leads you to trust Him when you formally distrusted hem. That trust leads you to see His commands and warnings as the loving gifts that they are. Trust Him and His commands and warnings, you now obey from the heart, willingly, rather than reluctantly solely to avoid punishment. That is how this seemingly reckless gospel that freely forgives ugly rebels of all they’ve done and will do (past, present, and future) also changes those very rebels into new people who now love God and His law.

Am I No Longer Able to Be Forgiven?               

There are two verses in particular that instill fear in us all when we read them. I don’t seek to dissolve that fear, but I do seek to keep that fear from being misplaced and to keep that fear from drawing us away from God in distrust. All fear in scripture is intended to draw us near to Him, freely drinking in His free and lavish salvation. 

Regarding the unpardonable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, Matthew Henry responds so well:

But humble and conscientious believers, at times are tempted to think they have committed the unpardonable sin, while those who have come the nearest to it, seldom have any fear about it. We may be sure that those who indeed repent and believe the gospel, have not committed this sin, or any other of the same kind; for repentance and faith are the special gifts of God, which he would not bestow on any man, if he were determined never to pardon him; and those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not. The trembling, contrite sinner, has the witness in himself that this is not his case. (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible)

This reaches back to the same test of seeing if you are, in fact, saved. Saved people do not tremble when the read about the unpardonable sin. Well, perhaps they care because of their fear of punishment. But they certainly do not for fear losing a relationship with God. Shaking when you hear a warning is a sign of God’s grace, as when we are lost, in our pride we typically consider ourselves beyond these kinds of warnings. If your heart longs for the gospel as it hears it, you have certainly not committed the unpardonable sin. Shake as you hear this warning. Then be encouraged as you find yourself shaking, and delve empty-handed all the deeper into God’s free gift of salvation that comes to you apart from anything you can do to deserve it.

And then there’s the infamous verse in Hebrews 10:26-27, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” And then we ask, “Is this me?” Again, I have no desire to dissuade you from asking that. You are obviously meant to ask that! And, again, those who quake in fear of this are often the least likely to belong in that category in the first place. It is such a stern warning that only a Judas would read this potentially find themselves in the category.

But you need to understand what kind of person belongs here: a hardhearted, continually unrepentant person who by no means would ever prostrate themselves before Jesus at His cross admitting full need of salvation. Jesus wasn’t unclear when He said that any who come to Him, He will by no means cast out (John 6:37). The people who fit in this category have no desire for Jesus’s salvation – of that you can be sure. Again, just listen to the gospel, over and over again if necessary. As it moves your heart to draw near to God in gratitude for His rescue, be encouraged that you are indeed His child. You cannot be beyond salvation if you are able to long for it and come to Jesus. The lost are not given that grace. They don’t want the Jesus of the Bible. They want a different god altogether.

What if I Find Myself Lacking?

You know, the funny thing is that whether you pass the test with great encouragement, whether it leaves you confused and fearful, or whether you feel you clearly fail it, your response should be identical.

If you look at the things you practice in daily life and see fruit of God’s salvation and the promises coming alive reliably and steadfastly, it is indeed an incredible encouragement. And what it leads you to do is the same thing that got you to that point in the first place: to place your eyes on God in awe and with full abandon. It leads you to deep thankfulness and joy in all of the immeasurable gifts He has not only given you but shown you more and more deeply as you’ve endured in your intimate walk through sufferings and trials.

But suppose you find yourself in a different place. If you look at your life and at how your heart responds to the gospel and find confusion and cloudiness, you will not gain more clarity by continuing to look at yourself. If you find your heart having no perceptible motion or response at all as you hear the gospel, your heart isn’t going to change by continuing to look at yourself. The only way the heart truly changes is as it hears the gospel with faith (Galatians 3). The only way faith comes is by hearing the good message of the Jesus’s gifts He gives us as He died on the cross, rose again, and glued us to Himself, killing our old nature and raising us up with Himself as new people (Romans 6; Romans 10).

Friend, the answer is the same, no matter where land when testing yourself. Your heart will only change as you gaze on God as He truly is. Your faith will only increase as you see Him. Your addiction will only loosen its grip as a deeper captivation strengthens its grip, a captivation with the God who, counter to all we deserve in our sin, slaughtered His Son for your punishment, and gave you the incredible blessings that His Son earned. Only as you see this God, only as trust for Him grows as your eyes feast on Him will the grip of sinful desire loosen. Only as you see and taste this God will the callouses of your heart fall away so that you can see Him all the more clearly and feel Him all the more closely.

Yes, please do test yourself to see that you are in the faith. But no matter the result of this, get your eyes back on the God who saves you. Get your mind back on the gospel message, which alone is God’s power to save your soul. If you fail the test, take that fear and run to the God who pours blessings freely on helpless rebels. If you pass the test, take that encouragement and run to God in deep thankfulness that He would encourage you so richly in your hope to come – heaven, where you will be with God fully with no separation at all. Regardless of where you are, friend, run full steam after God.


Posted by Matt Norman with
in MIsc

Shaken to Become Unshaken: The SCOTUS Decision

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Shaken to Become Unshakable

My Reaction to the SCOTUS Decision

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29, ESV)

Today, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. I must confess myself shaken, but perhaps not for the reasons you think. I knew same-sex marriages would be legalized soon. Frankly, I don’t despair over it either. My sorrow over same-sex marriages is in line with my sorrow over greed, selfish ambition, dishonesty, envy, and exploitation of the needy, all of which has been institutionalized and normalized since the dawn of time in every society, all of which should nauseate us. It is in line with my sorrow for when I, myself, mar God’s image through my own normalization of escape, self-centeredness, impatience, and a host of other nasty things flooding out of my idolatrous heart. No, legalization of same-sex marriage doesn’t shake me. But what does shake me is seeing peoples’ knee-jerk reactions. I literally shake with emotion when I read them. It pulls me to join in with my own hasty, ill-thought-out reactions. It pulls me to judge. It draws out my detached, judgmental accusations of, “How could you…” and “What’s the matter with you?” Holy Spirit help me!

I have many friends who are gay or lesbian or whose worldviews consider homosexuality to be perfectly fine. I also have friends who would be considered staunch, religious, and conservative. I see one Facebook post from a friend who I know has a past of marital brokenness proudly say, “Let me remind you what real marriage is.” I see yet another post saying, “Our country has really gone down the drain.” Yet another post says, “Finally, the religious right’s tyranny is at an end.” A church I know of took the opportunity to publically reveal that they see nothing wrong with homosexuality, applauded by many with expressions of relief and approval. Two camps. One typically disregards God’s loving commands and refuses to trust them where they don’t fully understand. The other disregards God’s pursuit of sinners and refuse to trust when it feels uncomfortable. In the middle live real people, real image bearers of God, being objectified and turned into fodder for detached rhetoric.

I find myself shaken by the rigidity of the division. No, I’m not claiming the church should embrace homosexuality as perfectly fine any more than they should embrace greed as perfectly fine. But didn’t Jesus embrace both the gay and the greedy as He placed His love on them and drew them out of sin and to Himself? Sin destroys, period. And Jesus pursues and rescues many sinners of all kinds, period. Both are true, and they are in harmony. A gospel that does not rescue us from sin is no gospel at all. A gospel that does not pursue us in our sin is also no gospel at all. The divide that shakes me is when the church forgets the Apostle Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.

"A gospel that does not rescue us from sin is no gospel at all. A gospel that does not pursue us in our sin is also no gospel at all."

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11)

We aren’t supposed to be divided from the world. We’re supposed to be engaging them with a message and a living testimony of its power. It shakes me because I know I suffer the same disease in my own propensity to forget scripture when it says, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). I want to be rash and quick in my anger with my brothers and sisters in the church. But that dishonors God’s name as much as their sins. Holy Spirit help me!

What shakes me more than anything is my fear of being rashly pigeon holed into one of the camps by people I love and respect. I care what people think, and I loathe the idea of being simplistically identified as something I am not. I fear for my reputation. After all, Stephen was martyred in a situation stemming from false rumors about him. He died being misunderstood. Think about that. It’s is a big fear of mine. I’m shaken, and I feel very unsettled. My guess is that you, too, feel unsettled for one reason or another. We are being shaken, and I know for a fact that God is doing it on purpose. I even know, at least partly, why He’s doing it because He has told us some things. The scripture that began this post starts with a command toward thanksgiving! Of all things, thanksgiving! We are to be grateful to God in the midst of the Supreme Court’s decision. In fact, the context of this passage in Hebrews is warning that we not refuse God’s gospel. It’s a serious deal. God shakes His people “in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” I want this to leave you with reasons to be thankful and restful.

God shook Israel with fear and trembling at the sight of lightning, fire, and thunder at the foot of the mountain, calling them to come up to Himself to be His treasure and His very own people. They did not trust Him, and therefore when they were shaken, they fled from Him in distrust as if He were something foreign. We would surely have done the same because we are also very shakable people. Jesus had to go up the mountain on our behalf so that we could finally become God’s treasured, intimate people. That’s why Hebrews says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” If we didn’t receive it, we would never have it at all. But we did receive an unshakable kingdom. We have a core in us that truly cannot be shaken, and God will shake us until that is all that remains. He promises to do so, and it is for our good. So, let us be thankful to God that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, friends, not because we agree with the decision, but because a wise God is in control, and He does only good to His people. Yes, let’s grieve for sin that seeks to destroy others and ourselves, but let us keep our eyes on God!

I am shaken with fear of being placed into a camp I don’t belong in. There isn’t much of a category for people like me, and I feel even brothers and sisters close to me isolating me with their rhetoric and hemming me into a place I don’t belong. Being misunderstood shakes me deeply. But why? Asking the Holy Spirit to be kind to me and open my eyes, I believe it is because I am very protective of my reputation. I find identity in how others view me. And this is an idol. God is shaking me to expose that which can be shaken, and idols are very shakable. God, I repent for fixing my eyes on how other people view me. God, I repent for letting my fear of being misunderstood outweigh my awe of your Son. Please help me to keep my eyes fixed on you and your gospel as Stephen did when he was being murdered. Help me to be enamored with your justice, wisdom, power, and pursuit of sinners. May my only fixation be on you being known as you are throughout the ends of the Earth. May my hope be in your message of reconciling sinners to yourself through your Son’s death and resurrection. May I rest in that message and depend on it utterly! May my sole desire be for your reputation, not mine. May I belittle shame as Jesus did on the cross, with my eyes fixed on you. Rescue me, God!

"May I rest in that message and depend on it utterly! May my sole desire be for your reputation, not mine. May I belittle shame as Jesus did on the cross, with my eyes fixed on you. Rescue me, God!"

 Friend, I imagine that you, too, have been shaken in some way by this decision. It is for your good. Please join me. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what is shaking in you and why. Find the idols that God is exposing. Is it pride in how you behave or with whom identify with? Is it fear of discomfort? Is it the need for Christianity to be normal or the fear of suddenly being seen as an outcast? Is it fear of being misunderstood either as a hater or as “emergent”? Is it feelings of inadequacy in approaching your LGBT neighbors and a fixation on what you’re innately capable of? God, the Holy Spirit, is wise and capable. You can depend on Him to reveal what is being shaken. Ask those close to you to tell you what they see in you. Then, press into God with the gospel of His Son rich on your mind, repenting with empty hands that beg for grace and power to overcome and change.

The sole purpose of our existence is to make God known more deeply and more widely. The sole means of this is through a message, a simple, powerful message that exposes a God who pursues so many vile, blind, people (like me) to rescue them and bring them to Himself. Lay aside the hindrances that God is shaking and revealing, and hold onto that which cannot be shaken. Hold onto the gospel, and expose its work in your own life to see it work in others’ lives. Any country can make any law they want, but God’s people will desire Him above everything no matter what the context. That which is unshakable has not changed, friend, so take comfort, and let this shaking do its work. God works all things for the good of His people, so let this be an opportunity to be deeply thankful and find healing from your own idols.

Posted by Matt Norman with